Wisconsin Dells is a summer resort town that is built around water—especially the Dalles, or Dells. The Dells is a 15-mile-long river channel that was cut through 150 feet of soft sandstone during the Ice Age. A hydroelectric dam has since split the channel into two sections: the Lower and the Upper Dells, each of which can be accessed via tours. The longer, more scenic Upper Dells is toured by regular, scenic boat tour while the Lower Dell’s (17 feet lower after the building of the dam) are explored via regular, duck or jet-boat tours.
We took the two-hour Upper Dells tour, which includes stops at both Witches Gulch and Stand Rock. While the cliffs are lovely, the tallest are only about 90 feet (presumably, 17 feet shorter than before the dam). The most spectacular views are accessible from the first of the boat’s two stops, at Witches Gulchrocks where you walk through s roughly 2/10-mile gorge though which you are surrounded by fantastically shaped cliffs that take on different colors in different light. The second stop, at Stand Rock is notable for a couple of the remaining mushroom-shaped pillars that have been protected by harder surface rock. The eponymous Stand Rock, which is balanced on a slender base, is 90 feet tall. Foot gap between the rock and the impressive than the rock itself, is the show at which a German Sheppard jumps the 5.5-foot gap between the rock and the hill from which it was carved. (People were banned from making the jump about 50 years ago.
Wisconsin Dells – The Town
And what about the town of Wisconsin Dells? It is more of a child-oriented theme park than a town. It is jammed with all types of water parks and water shows, amusement parks build around replicas of the Roman ruins, the Trojan Horse and the Statue of Liberty. The main street is filled with attractions, such as the Ripley Believe it or Not Museum, Wally’s World, Old Fashioned photo galleries and fudge, tee-shirt and souvenir shops. Not our kind of place but very appealing to kids and kids at heart.
The best part of town was a River Walk, which took us on an interpretive trail alongside the river.
Wisconsin Dells Restaurant
The other bright spot: the slightly out of town Del-Bar restaurant, where each of us had very good meals consisting of chargrilled Scottish salmon with béarnaise and a char-grilled ribeye steak with herb butter and sautéed mushrooms. These came with sides, from which we choose Caesar salads (loaded with anchovies), baked potato and hash browns. Wine consisted of a 2016 Migration pinot and with the steak, a glass of 2016 Beranger Knight’s Valley cabernet.
The following day’s lunch at Brat House Grill gave us a sample of the food that made Wisconsin famous. We each had a different brat: cheddar and bacon and swiss cheese and bacon. Both came with parmesan chips, which were nothing more than standard potato chips sprinkled with parmesan. Neither was particularly memorable. Lunch also gave Tom a chance for a full glass of New Glarus Spotted Cow.